What movie was that...?

21 February 2011

Pee Wee's Big Adventure

directed by Tim Burton

With a freshman debut like this, it’s a wonder how Tim Burton found work after Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. This is not to say that the film is bad (far from it), but that it was so wonderfully strange, so wonderfully peculiar that it threatened to alienate a lot of people. Lucky for us it didn’t, and Burton went on to make the excellent Beetle Juice, then direct the hell out of Batman (which was, at the time, the most expensive film ever made). Paul Reubens is the comic responsible for a lot of things (some of which are a bit on the blue side), but Pee Wee Herman, his man child personae, has endured in a way all his own. Back when Max Headroom was hawking Coke and The California Raisins were trying to get us all to read (ugh, what a nerdish thing to reference, BC), Pee Wee Herman was building massive foil and rubber band balls and hanging in his playhouse with his zany friends (hark! Is that Laurence Fishburne dressed as a cowboy?), and it was his big adventure that started it all. It was Mr. Ruebens who saw the potential in Burton after glimpsing the epically odd short film, Frankenweenie (dubbed unsuitable for children and never released by Disney), and it was the perfect storm of weird that made Big Adventure so amazing. Be forewarned, those of you who haven’t watched this film before: Paul Ruebens is a taste not savored by all (my dad hates him with a passion), but for those of you who “get it” (I know, I know. What a subjective phrase.) will find yourselves greatly rewarded.

Funny Note: There is a scene at the end of Big Adventure, when everyone is watching the film of the film (you’ll see), and Pee Wee himself has a cameo in his own film. His voice is absurdly dubbed (to hilarious effect), and I remember the first time I watched Lars Von Trier’s amazing film, The Element of Crime, in which Von Trier has a cameo of his own. Let’s just say that when I regaled the story of the segment to my brother, I referred to it as a real “Paging Mr. Herman” moment.


  1. I've heard of this one but after reading your write up I'm sure I haven't seen it.
    Funny you should post about Tim Burton because he's currently casting the likes of Michelle Pfeiffer, Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter to star in Dark Shadows!

  2. The film has an outwardly simple premise: a road movie about a boy looking for his lost bike. The result is a madcap fantasy come true. This film is also one of the very few Burton films to not feature his one true love: Mr. Johnny Depp.


What do you think?